Bush: Extremely electable

OK, now it’s New Hampshire’s turn. 

 

Ted Cruz beating Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio placing third gives the pundits something to talk about, but given Iowa is renowned for supporting evangelicals and far-right candidates with strong ground games, the results are not all that shocking. 

 

Thankfully, the caucus results also take away the media’s narrative that Trump will “run the table"’ and sets up New Hampshire — one of the least religious states — as a firewall for moderate Republican governors who had no chance in Iowa: John Kasich, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. 

 

Although he so far has underperformed, we believe Bush, with his vast network of establishment support, is the candidate most likely to beat Hillary Clinton.

 

With Trump’s histrionics dominating so much of the news, it’s easy to forget just how extreme and unelectable the Iowa front-runners are.  

 

Trump wants to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, ban all Muslims from entering and slap a 45 percent excise tax on China.

 

Cruz’s military strategy includes carpet bombing parts of Syria. As a true believer, he would take the country on a scary step toward Armageddon in the Middle East. Cruz has the most conservative record in Congress and is disliked by virtually every one of his colleagues in the Senate, two remarkable accomplishments. 

 

Though Rubio is considered establishment, he is also a warmonger and wants to add a $1 trillion to the military. Not only is his rhetoric about America being in serious decline and ISIS constituting a threat to “hundreds of thousands” of Americans untrue, it is also tiresome. We’re not interested in an Alarmist-in-Chief. 

 

Bush not only checks all the boxes for conservatives, on both fiscal and social issues, but unlike the front-runners who complain about how Washington doesn’t work and will prove it once they get in, he is conciliatory by nature and has sensible plans on major issues like immigration.

 

When asked at an editorial board at the Conway Sun whether he’d conduct warfare more like his father or brother, Jeb said he’d build a coalition like his dad’s and take a measured approach, so unlike the warmongering we hear from the front-runners. 

 

Jeb Bush by nature and upbringing treats people with respect; thus, he’s not particularly good at name-calling. As unimpressive as he looked trading insults with Trump, in person he’s confident, thoughtful and likable, qualities that should not disqualify him as president. 

 

New Hampshire has the power to get a sensible Republican in the game and keep anti-establishment, far-right candidates from running away with the nomination.

 

Much more than Iowa, New Hampshire reflects the body politic of American’s tradition of governing from the center, and it is our responsibility to give one of the moderates a chance. 

 

Our choice for that role is Jeb Bush, a man who can reach out to minorities, women and center-to-right independents — people Republicans need to win back the White House.

Clinton to win

 

 

CLINTON TO WIN

 

For Democrats, it’s this simple.  

 

Follow your heart and vote for the aspirational senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, then get smoked in the general election, or use your head and check the box for Hillary Clinton, a candidate who may not excite you but offers a far better chance at keeping a Democrat in the White House.

 

That Sanders, a grump-ish, old-ish guy with a New York accent from a tiny, all-white state who stumps for more government and higher taxes has started a political movement is unquestionably a testament to the high level of disillusionment in establishment politics.

 

But had Donald Trump not set the tone for outlandish ideas that aren’t scrutinized by the media, Sanders own blue-sky proposals would not be glossed over as they are now, though they will be in a general election. 

 

Remember Walter Mondale? In 1984, as the Democratic nominee challenging President Ronald Reagan, he said, “Mr. Reagan will raise your taxes and so will I. He won’t tell you and I just did.” Mondale lost in a landslide and carried only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. 

 

If Sanders is the Democratic nominee, fill in Vermont for Minnesota. 

 

Speaking to reporters at The Conway Daily Sun, he made an eloquent and convincing case that political revolution and real change always start with grand ideas that inspire grassroots movements, and that he is the torchbearer. 

 

True enough, but not good enough in 2016, when undecided, moderate voters will decide the election and reject his call for single-payer health care and free college for everyone (even rich kids), once they figure out out how much it will cost them. 

 

Clinton’s troubles are well-known.  She’s dogged by controversies and doesn’t have charisma that inspires big crowds. 

 

Twice she has appeared at editorial boards at the Sun — in 2008 and this year. And it is the consensus of the Sun’s reporters and editors that of the dozens of candidates interviewed through the years, Clinton in the flesh is least like her public persona.

 

In person she is dynamic, personable, if not charming, and exudes the confidence of a person who has been on the world stage, championing progressive issues all her life, which, of course, she has. 

 

For whatever reason, she does not convey a rock-star persona, though we suspect the public would cringe if a woman waved her arms like an eccentric philosophy professor, like Sanders, or anointed herself a “winner” and spewed schoolyard insults a la Trump. 

 

And about Clinton’s controversies, we say, so what.  

 

They are inconsequential in a world littered with bad actors who must be chuckling at the prospect that the potential leader of the free world could be brought down over what she may or may not have told family members at a funeral service for CIA agents killed in Benghazi or because a few messages marked top secret were found on her private email server.

 

She is tough and a survivor, and those qualities we want in a commander in chief. 

 

By inspiring and motivating millennials, Sanders has done an invaluable service that in future elections will reap rewards for the Democratic Party.

 

But in this one, Democrats have a simple choice — win, or lose.

The road rage candidate

We all feel it. 

 

You’re driving down the road, minding your own business, and some idiot cuts you off.

 

Or you’re trying to get out from a side street, and someone looks you right in the eye and won’t let you in.

 

For a split second you literally want to smack ‘em — or if you drive an old pickup like some of us, ram ‘em. 

 

But because most of us, most of the time, act like civilized adults, it takes but a millisecond to decide that smacking someone is probably not a good idea.

 

That primordial urge to react to situations without thinking taps into the part of the brain that Donald Trump has the uncanny ability to reach. And while we acknowledge his genuine appeal to our most primitive urges and his plain talk, we encourage Republicans to end the flirtation with the ultimate bad boy and reach the inevitable conclusion that Trump would be a disaster for Republicans in the general election — and, if elected, for the nation.  

 

Here are a few Trump-isms, and why his ideas are morally and practically bankrupt. 

 

• ISIS is a bona fide terrorist threat, and the knee-jerk solution from Trump to catch a few terrorists is ban all 1.6 billion Muslims from entering the country. Sort of makes sense for a second, until you think about it.   

 

Not only do most legal scholars believe it is unconstitutional, but it is morally reprehensible to vilify entire groups based on religion, race or ethnicity. When the threat to our national security was much greater, in World War II, we interned thousands of Japanese Americans and, because of anti-Semitism, did little to rescue Jews from Europe. Those are considered two of the darkest episodes in our country's history.

 

• Eleven million undocumented immigrants: Trump's solution—send them all back. Though tempting, because it is fundamentally wrong that people sneak into our country illegally, still, not a good idea.   

 

Serious Republicans and Democrats are in near universal agreement that Trump's idea of somehow rounding up and sending millions of people back to Mexico (similar to a 1950s program called “Operation Wetback”) is logistically impossible, and again, morally reprehensible as it would break up generations of families.

 

• Personally insulting anyone you don’t like or who threatens you. May work for a while on a school playground, but for adults, not a good idea. 

 

From Fox’s Megyn Kelly and candidate Carly Fiorina to Sen. John McCain, no one escapes Trump's ego-driven, Twitter-enabled insults. Reporter Paul Solotaroff of Rolling Stone, who spent a couple of weeks on the campaign trail with Trump, said he has an amazing ability to sense good business deals but has the mind of a 14-year-old who can’t keep his mouth shut.

 

Will we feel safe with a President Trump tweeting insults to Putin in the middle of the night with one hand on the Red Button?

 

Virtually all the other Republican candidates have rock-solid conservative values and policy positions; from outsiders like Sen. Ted Cruz to establishment candidates like Gov. Jeb Bush, there are plenty of quality candidates to choose from, minus the crazy talk and half-baked ideas. 

 

Union Leader Publisher Joe McQuaid has compared Trump to blowhard Biff Tannen in the "Back to the Future" movies, and we join him in reminding voters that New Hampshire has a unique, important and serious role in electing the next leader of the free world. 

The primary is five weeks away. Trump’s barroom talk is seductive but dangerous. New Hampshire voters can end it, and should.

Asking Hillary the Gotcha Question

At the opening of her very popular Fox News show last week, "The Kelly File," host Megyn Kelly named the Sun and referenced a question that was asked Hillary Clinton during her visit to our office. A few national and international newspapers, and a slew of conservative blogs, also ran it. 

The question came from Sun columnist Tom McLauglin, who framed it as a device to accuse of Clinton of lying about what she said to family members of the people killed at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in the attack in 2012.

But why would McLaughlin’s question, in particular, attract so much attention when the subject has been beaten to death?

Because McLaughin did what professional journalists don’t do, even those on Fox or MSNBC news. And that is to break an unwritten code not to ask “gotcha” questions, which are designed to entrap interviewees into saying something that damages their character or reputation. 

The best-known journalism school example of a "gotcha" question is, “Did you stop beating your wife?” 

Say yes, and the interviewee denies beating his wife, but the question alone implies he once did. 

Answer no, and it’s an obvious admission.

More on McLaughlin’s question later, but first a little bit about editorial boards.

The candidates stop by the Sun to get free press and ask for our endorsement. If the Sun were a little paper located in Fryeburg, Maine, none would stop in. And, win or lose, come Feb. 5, we will never hear from them again.  

Still, we take our role seriously, endorse candidates we think best represent the Republican and Democratic parties, and consider meeting candidates in person a very special opportunity, if not an “only in America” privilege.  

Such visits are not at all automatic. It takes a tireless effort by reporter Lloyd Jones to work us into a candidate's schedule, especially someone like Clinton, who shows up in a motorcade of a half-dozen big, black SUVs and a full contingent of Secret Service. 

To avoid asking the candidates the same policy questions they've been asked a thousand times, we try to ask what we call contextual questions, the intent of which are to bring out their personalities and leadership styles, qualities we reference in our endorsements. 

It's an informal process. We all grab chairs and basically sit around asking questions. I kick it off with two or three questions, and then the Sun’s reporters and columnists are free to ask what they want.  

On the way out the door, the candidates sign what we have christened “Ice Box One,” a refrigerator used by Sun staffers every day to keep their lunches. This is the third primary for the fridge. It’s sort of our shtick and has gained notoriety. Clinton, who has now signed it twice, wrote in part, “The fridge lives!”  

Through this way of vetting candidates, we’ve learned that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whether asked about his role in the George Washington Bridge scandal or his favorite Bruce Springsteen song, is full of passion and projects a powerful presence.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, contrary to looking weak standing next to Donald Trump at the debates, in person connects with people surprisingly well, coming across as confident, competent and someone you would trust.

Whether Republican or Democrat, we treat them with respect like the invited guests they are. We are not interested in catching them saying something stupid to post on YouTube. 

As a result, many candidates tell us they like the experience, and many have stayed longer than scheduled. Clinton stayed nearly 90 minutes, making her an hour late for a town meeting in Berlin. One of Bush’s advisers, a four-star admiral, told me that because of our engaging and thoughtful questions, our editorial board was the best they've attended. 

Back to McLaughlin.

For years, Clinton has consistently said she didn’t tell the family members that the video that went viral caused the attack in Benghazi. Some family members, who now regularly appear on Fox News, say she did. 

These conversations were held at a large aircraft hanger where President Barack Obama and other officials, including Clinton, met the grieving families, some of whom didn’t yet know their family members had been in the CIA.

The conversations took place in what is probably best described as a receiving line. The conversations apparently weren’t recorded, as they were personal expressions of sympathy, and there is no independent way to prove what was said. 

McLaughlin was well-prepared for the confrontation with Clinton, even reading aloud quotes attributed to some of the family members, and eventually asked her, “Now someone’s lying, who is it?

It was a "gotcha" question, because either she admits she is lying or by saying she didn’t, implies that the families are. Either answer besmirches her character, which was McLauglin's goal, and that was obvious to me and the rest of the staff, as we all cringed. 

In fact, the obvious alternative explanation to either Clinton or the families lying is what Clinton tried to carefully explain — that those conversations are subject to interpretation, and happened during a stressful time and in the “fog of war.” 

In his own column last week, McLaughlin wrote that “few journalists are able to pin her down,” suggesting that he did and that he is a real journalist, adding, “I don’t think she was expecting tough questions.”

Unaware of the irony and the contrast to himself, McLaughlin even quoted to Clinton the version of the video question posed by ABC News anchor George Stephanopolous, who on his show "This Week" asked her directly, and respectfully, “Did you tell them it was about the film?” 

Fair and balanced journalists don’t ask partisan, loaded, "gotcha" questions. It's the reason why McLaughlin’s question became fodder for Fox News. And after hundreds of questions asked to dozens of candidates, the only one of this type ever asked at the Sun. 

Mark Guerringue is the publisher of The Conway Daily Sun.

Rebels without a clue

We applaud the Kennett High School principal for not allowing the Confederate battle flag to be displayed, and while we’re tempted to give a nod to the boys for standing behind something they believe in, we doubt their motives.

 

At its core, this is a First Amendment issue.

 

As a newspaper, we wrestle with such issues regularly, and we offer the boys our standards to think about.

 

When deciding to print a story that can make someone look bad, we say to ourselves, “We have the right to publish it, but is it the right thing to do?”

 

Two examples illustrate this point: court news and divorce proceeding, both public information.

 

Many, many people over the years have asked us not to publish their names in the court news because it would damage their reputation. With rare exceptions (and only if a court judgment is a mistake) have we acquiesced.

 

The reason: We believe informing people about what the police are up to, and alerting them about criminal activity, serves the public and outweighs any effects it may have on the reputation of an individual who ends up in court.

 

Conversely, we choose not to publish the names of people who get divorced. We don’t see any public good coming from printing divorce proceedings, and if there is any, we don’t think it important enough to infringe on someone’s private life.

 

It’s easy for reporters to write about someone from behind the safety of a keyboard. It’s quite another thing to look that person in the eye.

 

So another standard we use is to ask ourselves whether we feel strongly enough about the story that we would defend it face-to-face to the person we are writing about.

 

The students have a First Amendment right to fly the battle flag, and while it is unlikely that they have direct lineage to the Confederacy, it is true there are descendants of Confederate soldiers who legitimately believe it represents honor and Southern heritage.

 

But to the vast majority of people today, the flag represents a system of government that was based on slavery, and is a symbol of oppression and hatred.

 

The teens should ask themselves if the satisfaction they receive from parading the flags around outweighs the discomfort and outrage it causes to others.

 

Flying the Confederate flag in a grocery store parking lot in a lily-white community like Conway is safe. We wonder how their resolve would hold up if Conway had a sizable black community who might confront them; or if they would have the courage to convoy their pickups with flags unfurled through the streets of an ethnically mixed city like Boston. 

 

There are many countries that ban symbols of oppression. France, for instance, explicitly bans the swastika, which a thousand years ago meant “good fortune” but was infamously corrupted by the Nazis in World War II. 

 

We are lucky to live in a country with a very, very powerful First Amendment. But with freedom comes responsibility to use good judgment, and we encourage the Kennett kids to use some.